Chlorinated water linked to raised cancer risk

Judy Sands

INTERNATIONAL research has found links between drinking heavily chlorinated water and increased risks of brain cancer and birth defects.

The Co-operative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment has published studies from Iowa, in the United States, and Norway examining risks associated with drinking chlorinated water.

A study in Norway examined the association between chlorination, water colour and occurrence of birth defects.

More than 141,000 mothers who drank chlorinated water were tested between 1993 and 1995, of which 2608 had newborns identified with birth defects.

The report said the results showed small but statistically significant rises for urinary tract defects in areas where the level of chlorination was higher.

The report also said the results confirmed two studies which both found an increased risk of total birth defects with consumption of chlorinated tap water.

A further study in Iowa also has suggested there was a risk, especially among men, of suffering a type of brain cancer after drinking large quantities of chlorinated water over an extended period of time.

The authors of the study said further research was needed to provide confirmation. The report stated: "This is the first evaluation of chlorination by-products as risk factors for brain cancer in a population based study so we would need a further build-up of evidence."

The studies follow an Australian study in 1995 which found "clear links" between bladder cancer, and possibly bowel cancer, and chlorine in drinking water.

Queensland state manager of public health Dr John Scott said his department knew of the studies and were continuing to monitor further research.

"It's like studies to do with the Pill and breast cancer. For every study that say there is a link between cancer and chlorinated water there are another four that find no links," he said. "The overall body of research however seems to indicate there is no risk or a very minor one."

He said the Iowa and Norway study had showed the risk was small.

"We always have to balance the risk of chlorinating the water with the risk of not chlorinating the water," he said.

"And the risks of not chlorinating are well demonstrated from minor viruses and bugs to the potential for cholera and other epidemics."

He said even though water treatment plants were now very sophisticated, there was still a risk bugs could enter the water in the pipelines.

"But we are monitoring the research into chlorinated water as is the rest of the world," he said.

The Courier Mail 1 Jan 2000 Page 15

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